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CAA, Matuas & Organisational Rejig: What's Behind the Tussle in Bengal BJP?

Union Minister Shantanu Thakur is standing at the epicenter of what is the latest turmoil affecting Bengal BJP.

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Politics
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Dissent and turmoil have been flirting with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Bengal unit ever since they were left red-faced in the 2021 Assembly Elections. From internal turmoil and mudslinging to a host of leaders jumping ship to the Trinamool Congress, there has been no end to their troubles.

They invited some fresh hell upon themselves after a several disgruntled BJP leaders including the likes of former state vice-presidents Ritesh Tiwari and Joy Prakash Majumdar, former general-secretary Sayantan Basu, BJP leader Samiran Saha and union minister Shantanu Thakur, openly protested against the party.

Standing at the epicenter of that list is Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways and a prominent member of the Matua community, Shantanu Thakur, primarily for his electoral significance. The Matuas have been instrumental behind the BJP’s electoral gains in the 2019 General Elections and the 2021 Assembly Elections over their promise of the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019).

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So, a disgruntled Thakur, screams red flags for the BJP in Bengal.

So why are Thakur and the others protesting? Aap Chronology Samjhiye

'Ominous Signs Within The Party’

Rewind the clock a bit and one will learn that the seeds of dissent were sown the very day, the Bengal BJP decided to shuffle their organisation on 25 December.

The new team which had 11 new vice-presidents, five general secretaries, 42 organisational district unit presidents and 12 state secretaries alongside seven new morcha (front) presidents, had excluded the names of several veteran leaders who always been with the party.

Miffed at this rejig, leaders started to quit the Bengal BJP’s WhatsApp group starting first with five MLAs hailing from the Matua community in North 24 Parganas, followed by four MLAs from Bankura. Later several district and veteran leaders also jumped in on the bandwagon – as a mark of protest against the newly appointed committees.

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This triggered a factional war in an already divided state unit of the party.

Those who are holding meetings between themselves are the flesh and blood of the party. These people were with the BJP when the party didn’t have even a one per cent vote share in the state. The party is not without them. There are some differences. But I would like to see their meetings as part of their effort to keep the disgruntled organisers and leaders together.
Shamik Bhattacharya, Bengal BJP Chief Spokesperson

The disgruntled leaders started holding closed-door meetings between themselves with Thakur, seemingly at the helm of the dissent. This all culminated in BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar dissolving all units and departments on 13 January.

However, the saga didn’t end there, as the disgruntled leaders met again on Saturday, 15 January at the Kolkata Port Trust Guest House to discuss the issues concerning the state unit, and simultaneously strengthen the growing lobby against the current state leadership.

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As the meeting concluded, Thakur told the media that there were ‘Ominous signs’ within the party.

But looking at the present state committee in West Bengal I don’t think it has any noble intention. The committee was set up after sending wrong messages to the party’s national leaders. I can see an ominous sign. We want to fight this together.
Shantanu Thakur, Union Minister

He continued to point fingers at a “particular leader” and demanded his removal as he alleged that he is ruining the party, without naming him.

A particular leader, in a bid to take control of the whole party (state unit), formed the committee by excluding veteran and experienced leaders of the party. I believe that leader and his associates have connection with some other political parties. We would foil all their plans and that’s why we met today.
Shantanu Thakur, Union Minister

He further added that they will continue their protests until he is not removed from his post.

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If the name of the “particular leader” isn’t clear from the hints dropped by Thakur in his interaction with the media, posters across the city, especially outside Kolkata Port Trust Guest House and the state BJP headquarters, would answer that for you – BJP's state general secretary Amitava Chakraborty.

The posters called Chakraborty Bibhishan (Mythological reference to the enemy within) or ‘an Agent of Prashant Kishor’.

The BJP leadership tried to deflect the blame towards the TMC.

The post of general secretary (organisation) is above this bickering in the BJP. The person holding that post does only internal work. He does not form organisational committees or make public speeches. Dragging Chakraborty into this is unfair and condemnable
Shamik Bhattacharya, Bengal BJP Chief Spokesperson

On Monday, 17 January, some of the dissenting leaders met for a ‘picnic’ in North 24 parganas, led by Thakur.

The motive of the picnic was a show of strength, and a message to the leadership that the protests will not stop.

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The picnic is part of the preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. We discussed our strategy. None of those who attended it are dissidents. We all owe our allegiance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We have assembled here because the new state-level committees were formed with an ulterior motive. We foresee a danger for the Bengal BJP.
Shantanu Thakur, Union Minister

The Implementation of The Citizenship Amendment Act

Amidst the protest against the state leadership, Thakur has also taken charge to launch demand the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) from the central government.

On Sunday, 16 January, Shantanu Thakur, along with other Matua leaders and disgruntled BJP MLAs, including his brother Subrata Thakur, renewed their demand for the immediate implementation of the CAA.

Thakur said that the Matuas across the country got in touch with their leaders and alleged that the Centre is ‘deceiving’ them in the name of CAA implementation, and that ‘panic’ is being created across the nation. He said that the Matuas wanted to know the standpoint of the centre in this matter.

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The members of the Matua community wanted to know when the CAA would begin and their citizenship rights recognized.
Shantanu Thakur, Union Minister

The centre is yet to implement the rules of the CAA, which was passed in 2019.

The Matua Mahasangha is planning an all India stir to take up the issue, which they have been demanding for a long time.

Home Minister Amit Shah had promised that the CAA will be implemented as soon as the country was done battling the COVID pandemic.

There are no differences between the Matuas and the BJP. The new citizenship law will surely be enforced in Bengal before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. This is being handled by the Central government. The party cannot comment on administrative issues.
Shamik Bhattacharya, Bengal BJP Chief Spokesperson

Thakur also took this opportunity to speak about the ‘little to no representation’ of the Matuas in the Bengal BJP unit.

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Topics:  BJP Bengal   CAA   Matua Community 

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